Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Monday, 14 May 2018

Baby and Bathwater


A basic form of cashing-in on NAPLAN. The media are much more sophisticated.
 The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) has been in the news of late.

The program was introduced in 2008, three years after I had retired as a school principal, so my personal experience relates to encounters with it from the point of view as a consultant - an adviser with no direct responsibilities for student results.

In addition, I was focused on students with disabilities, so my perspective was a mite unconventional.

Whatever, I have certainly developed some opinions based on my experience.

My first encounter influenced by NAPLAN was when I was supporting a student with a physical impairment enrolled in a small (15 student) rural school. The principal asked me how she would go about securing permission for this student to be exempted from the test.

When I enquired as to her reasons for this, it became clear that she was worried that his under-performance on the test would lower the average of her whole school performance. This was a real issue for small school principals. When you have an enrolment of 15, one bad performance makes a great deal of difference to the whole school result.

When your enrolment is say, 500, not so much.

NAPLAN was always an issue for small schools.

 Given my post-2005 experience in the Queensland system, I also noticed other issues associated with the emphasis on literacy and numeracy demanded by NAPLAN. The curriculum is crowded, and teachers generally prioritise areas that are assessed.

So do school administrators. If school staffing resources are prioritised (as they always are) literacy and numeracy take precedence. This is reflected in the way specialist teachers who operate outside the literacy/numeracy area treated. Music and Art teachers find themselves used as relief teachers when push comes to shove as a result of staffing prioritised. Their curriculum areas are inevitably dismissed because they are not part of the program. This is despite the fact that for many students, art and music provide the real colour and movement in the curriculum and the best chance for enduring engagement.

I’m aware of a number of specialist teachers who felt so abused by the practice of disregarding their subject areas that they left the profession in disgust.

Then, of course, there’s the media’s use of the NAPLAN data. They exploit it mercilessly. It is, after all, God’s gift to declining circulations. Everybody wants to read about the relative performances of their child and their school.

There have been calls for the abolition of the scheme. To assess whether this has any merit, it’s important to consider the real reason for its introduction. My belief is that they were political, rather than educational.

The government in power at the time wanted to show that it was DOING SOMETHING ABOUT EDUCATION. When you think about it, NAPLAN was supposed to answer a question that nobody who knew anything about teaching and learning actually asked. Schools and teachers know how they are performing. They are told so every day. Schooling and teaching are the most public and visible of professions.

The league tables that have developed on the back of media coverage of the results have had an enormously destructive influence on schools, teachers and students. It is impossible to identify one positive outcome of these tables except for the above-mentioned boost for the media.

But to terminate the program on the basis of these negatives? I wouldn’t do that. The problem is not the collection of data, but the way in which it has been misused. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The solution is relatively simple – make the data available only to those directly involved – the students and parents – the teachers and the apparatchiks in the state systems.  The media could be kept at bay by press releases that provided system-wide data, but left school data out of it, to prevent school by school comparisons. Real penalties could be applied to any individual or organisation that leaked information.

This should remove the pressure cooker environment that has developed around the program.

There would be wailing and gnashing of teeth from the media of course – I can see the headlines about “denial of accountability” and “cover-up”, but if all sides of politics supported an embargo on league tables, the political sting would be removed.

Let’s have a reassessment of NAPLAN – not in terms of what data is collected, but what is done with it. Leave the data in the hands of those best positioned to use it rather than misuse it. Use it to inform resource allocation, teaching strategies, and staff support, not to score political points and set one system against another.

Let’s make sure NAPLAN doesn’t become Napalm. I saw what that stuff did in Vietnam.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Look at me, look at me......I am a Vietnam Vet.....1735099 was the number allocated to me and should not be confused with my tax file number or payroll number or driving licence number.

Bobby your incessant reference to the two years that so heavily influenced your thinking tend to detract from the value of your otherwise worthwhile posts.

Get over it mate you were not alone.

1735099 said...

My blog - my number.
I didn’t ask for it, but won it in a raffle organised by Bob Menzies and the DLP.
I use it because it is relevant.
The politics of fear and loathing, which was what got 500 Australians killed in a futile and unnecessary conflict, needs to be exposed to the sunlight of the facts of history.
Thousands of surviving Vietnam veterans had their lives destroyed and their children harmed.
The damage is inter generational.
Back then the fear used was Communism.
These days the bĂȘte noire is Islam.
Seeking political power by using fear and hate works - just ask Pauline.
Incidentally, my post was about education.
You’ve made it all about Vietnam.
Who’s obsessed?

Anonymous said...

Seek treatment for your PTSD issues Bobby.

1735099 said...

When old mate runs out of ideas he makes remote psychiatric diagnoses on line anonymously.
At least he doesn't charge the common fee.
There's a precedent, of course.
The Soviets did this when they wanted to silence dissent - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cases_of_political_abuse_of_psychiatry_in_the_Soviet_Union

Anonymous said...

You didn't allow a comment that hit at the heart of your post but now you strike back as if educated at university in todays climate.

I am sure that you have studied all things socialist/communist Bobby. A person who votes Green but espouses all things Labor is sure to have done that if he attended uni and it suited his cause.

What you have missed is the fact that "political_abuse_of_psychiatry_in_the_Soviet_Union" is a method employed by the Socialist/Communist Soviets......your side of the spectrum.

I do not offer diagnoses. I suggest that you seek assistance for your obsession with two years of your life which affect the quality of your writing and possibly other aspects of your life that you are not even aware of. Not every comment is a direct attack on your credibility.

1735099 said...

You didn't allow a comment that hit at the heart of your post but now you strike back as if educated at university in todays climate.
Your concern for my mental health is heartwarming, but I have no idea what you're on about.
I have never "not allowed" a comment on my blog, with the notable exception of a death threat a few years ago. Whilst I can't identify your comments as they are anonymous, I have always posted anything under the tag "anonymous", which I presume is the same person.
A person who votes Green
You would have no idea how I vote.
you seek assistance for your obsession
I wonder about your definition of "obsession". One of the great things about this blog platform is that it allows a search on the basis of topic. Now each time I post, I have to decide what the topic is, and I have faithfully recorded any post I have made with the slightest reference to Vietnam. This includes posts I have made about my trips back, and the reunions I have attended. According to a search of the archive (which you can perform) , 49 out of 1149 posts since I started this blog in 2005 have referred to Vietnam. I also have other blogs including (for example) this one - http://mx5mutterings.blogspot.com.au/
I reckon that the one with the "obsession" might be your good self.
Your problem is that you can't abide a blogger who expresses a political opinion that differs from your own. Your problem - not mine. I'm happy to be subversive - it's important to always question the status quo.
Here's a great book that might help you understand where I'm coming from - https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/TCHS.82.5.249-250?journalCode=vtch20
Postman and Weingartner knew what they were on about all those years ago.....

Anonymous said...

"A person who votes Green
You would have no idea how I vote." You previously made a statement to that effect, either here or on Kev's site.
"I have never "not allowed" a comment on my blog," It would seem that there are ghosts in the system that can over ride the submissions. I submitted a comment which was acknowledged by the system you have in place pending moderation. It was not published.

I think you speak with a forked tongue Bobby.

"Your problem is that you can't abide a blogger who expresses a political opinion that differs from your own." As I have not expressed a political affiliation and you are so good at educated guessing, perhaps you can tell me where my affiliations lie.

While I keep you interested others suffer less.

1735099 said...

You previously made a statement to that effect
Really? Where?
Who is "Kev"?
I am not interested in your political affiliations - but I do have an abiding interest in truth and history, and an active ICD*.
*Inbuilt Crap Detector (see Postman & Weingartner).

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